HARPSWELL — I’ve been a foot soldier in the campaign to adopt ranked-choice voting in Maine elections since the 2016 citizen initiative petition process to put ranked-choice voting to a statewide vote, so I read Bill Nemitz’s Sept. 1 column, “Ranked-choice voting has just got (sic) a lot more complicated” (Page B1), with a great deal of interest.

Having read Mr. Nemitz’s, and Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s, head-scratching comments about just how ranked-choice voting will fit in with the various political parties’ delegate apportionment rules (Mr. Nemitz’s column specifically mentioned the Democratic Party, but I presume the same concern would apply to any party’s process), I turned to the text of the amended L.D. 1083, which sits before Gov. Mills awaiting her action. As reported out by the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee on June 18, passed by the Maine House that same day and passed by the Maine Senate on Aug. 26, it can be found at https://tinyurl.com/yymdg278.

I wanted to understand fully the nature of the “Gordian knot” that Secretary of State Dunlap sees before him and the party conventions. My attention was riveted by the following paragraph (which also was in the original version of L.D. 1083):

“Sec. 3. 21-A MRSA §723-A, sub-§5-B is enacted to read:

“5-B. Presidential primary elections; selection of delegates. Notwithstanding any provision of this section to the contrary, selection and allocation of delegates to a party’s national presidential nominating convention must be in accordance with any reasonable procedures established at the state party convention.”

Seems to me that the bottom line here is that the proposed law, as written, says that the presidential primary vote is an advisory to the party’s state convention, whose members get to decide for themselves whether and how to apply the information it supplies them in choosing the delegation they send to the party’s national convention, according to whatever rules their party has adopted.

That being the case, I also believe that in a primary involving at least three candidates, using ranked-choice voting to tabulate the outcome, far from complicating that party-specific process, would instead provide a very useful tool to the convention for selecting a proportionally representative delegation, if they wish. They’ll know which candidate is definitely supported by at least 50 percent of the state party’s members, and they’ll have a ranking, from highest to lowest, with the total votes each received, of any other candidates who were still standing to be counted in the final ranked-choice voting tabulation round.

Not only that, they’ll also have the rankings and vote counts from all of the prior rounds for the candidates eliminated in those rounds at their disposal, too, so they’ll know exactly what proportion of the overall vote each of the eliminated candidates commanded in the last round that included them, in case that’s of interest. That should be plenty of grist for whatever mill each party chooses to use to produce a proportionally representative delegation. Of course, any party that chooses to commit its delegation entirely to the candidate who has demonstrated the broadest support from among their registered voters will find that the ranked-choice voting count will help them do that, too.

What I’m trying to say is, if I’m reading the bill on Gov. Mills’ desk correctly, it’s the state party convention, not Secretary of State Dunlap, that’s got to figure out what to do with the information that ranked-choice voting will give them (which will be more informative than a “winner takes all” count), and it’s the party, not the secretary of state, who’ll be the target of any argument about the outcome, since the choice will be made by their rules. And that’s exactly as it should be.


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